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The facts about AIDS

I would like to respectfully make some up-to-date corrections on Helen Gow's article on AIDS (Valley Reporter, 11/26/08). The virus that causes AIDS is called HIV or Human Immunodeficiency Virus. A person is said to be diagnosed with AIDS once that person's T-cell count drops below a designated level, at which point the body is greatly compromised in its ability to kill off infection.

I would like to respectfully make some up-to-date corrections on Helen Gow's article on AIDS (Valley Reporter, 11/26/08). The virus that causes AIDS is called HIV or Human Immunodeficiency Virus. A person is said to be diagnosed with AIDS once that person's T-cell count drops below a designated level, at which point the body is greatly compromised in its ability to kill off infection.

Once diagnosed with HIV, and given treatment with specific drugs, survival rates are estimated at 20 years. Without treatment survival rates are estimated to be 9 to 11 years. I must also say that I personally know many people who have been HIV positive for over 20 years and are functioning as well as many who do not have the virus.

Two of my friends completed master's degree programs and another is in the process of going to school for her master's while working part time, and raising her son, age 20, who was born with the virus (HIV). He is in college and works a full-time job and no one in his community is aware of his illness. These success stories are to be attributed to HAART or Highly Active Anti Retroviral Therapy. The sad part of the story is that most people in the world do not have access to HAART due to expense, politics and technicalities of distribution in many third world countries.

Due to the limited availability of HAART, education on prevention is of utmost importance.

(1) HIV is transmitted sexually (primarily heterosexually) whether through intercourse, anal or oral sex. Latex condoms without oil-based lubricants have been shown to be the most effective sexual means of prevention.

(2) HIV is transmitted from blood to blood. This means that a person can become infected through a blood transfusion, through sharing hypodermic needles during drug abuse, or by an unintentional needle stick.

(3) Over 10 years ago the NIH Consensus Panel on HIV Prevention stated that needle exchange programs for intravenous drug users (IDUs) reduced high risk behavior by up to 80 percent and reduced acquiring HIV by as much as 30 percent. Yet even today politics, misinformation and harsh judgment has caused this means of prevention to be illegal in most states and not eligible for federal funding -- this despite the fact that intravenous drug use constitutes as much as 25 percent of the cases of HIV.

(4) HIV is transmitted from mother to child during pregnancy and through nursing her infant. Birth control methods then become more important than simply preventing a birth.
 

There is so much more to learn about HIV/AIDS. It is up to each one of us to make sure we are educated on means of prevention as well as those things that do not cause HIV, such as hugging, kissing, eating a meal prepared by someone who has the virus, among other normal daily activities.

If you need help getting info on HIV/AIDS (or hepatitis C) or if you have the virus and want confidential free access to peer counseling you may contact twinstatesnetwork.net.

Kremer lives in Warren

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